- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The governor of Vermont vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have legalized marijuana within the Green Mountain state.

Gov. Phil Scott, a first-term Republican, told reporters Wednesday that he’s rejecting a bill that would’ve made Vermont the ninth state in the nation with legal marijuana.

The bill — the first marijuana legalization measure in the country to be passed by a state legislature rather than a voter referendum — would have taken effect July 2018 had the governor not intervened before midnight tonight.

Mr. Scott said the bill lacked adequate safety measures and is sending it back to the legislature for a rewrite, according to reporters on hand at Wednesday’s press conference in Montpelier.

“We must get this right,” Mr. Scott said of legalizing marijuana, The Associated Press reported. “I think we need to move a little bit slower.”

The bill would have removed criminal and civil penalties for minor pot possession, let residents grow a limited number of marijuana plants and create a commission tasked with establishing a system for state-regulated cannabis sales. It passed the state Senate by a 21-9 vote last month and cleared the state House earlier this month 74-68.

Mr. Scott previously said he is “not philosophically opposed” to legalizing marijuana, but expressed reservations over the measure’s potential impact on highway safety and children’s health.

The governor may reverse course and legalize marijuana after all if the state Legislatures makes certain changes before June 21, Vermont Public Radio’s Peter Hirchfeld tweeted Wednesday afternoon. Otherwise lawmakers must wait until the next legislative sessions starts in January 2018 to introduce a new legal weed bill, WPTZ Burlington reported.

“It is disappointing that Gov. Scott would not only defy the will of of state legislators, but also the will of the majority of Vermont voters who support ending criminal penalties for those adults who consume cannabis responsibly,” said Justin Strekal, the political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, NORML. “Minor marijuana possession offenders should not be saddled with a criminal record and the lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it. Rather than looking to the future, Gov. Scott seems intent on repeating the failures of the past.”

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-weed advocacy group, applauded the governor’s decision Wednesday and said it will fight any further legalization efforts waged by the Legislature.

“We will be working very closely with our allies to make sure any piece of legislation does not allow Big Marijuana to come to Vermont,” the organization told The Washington Times.

Eight states and the nation’s capital have passed laws since 2012 legalizing recreational marijuana for adults, and medical marijuana laws are currently on the books in 29 states and D.C., despite the federal government’s longstanding prohibition on pot.

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